Illinois City Agrees To Stop Fining People for Resisting Warrantless Home Inspections
It’s a victory for the privacy of landlords and renters in Zion, Illinois, as the city has formally agreed to change its rental inspection laws to comply with Fourth Amendment protections against warrantless searches.
The mayor and City Council of Zion, population just under 25,000, passed a rental inspection ordinance in 2015 that required all property owners to apply for certification for any residences they wanted to lease. Part of the requirement to get a rental certificate was to allow any rental unit to be inspected by city officials every year. If a landlord fails to follow the rules, they can be fined $750 per day until they comply.
Property owner Josefina Lozano had her rental units approved by the city’s program. But when it came time for the city to inspect her properties in 2018, a prerequisite for an official rental certificate, the tenants of one of her units, Robert and Dorice Pierce, refused to cooperate and wouldn’t allow city staff into their home. As a result, that particular unit wasn’t certified. When the city attempted to force compliance in 2019, Lozano and the Pierces turned to the Institute for Justice. They sued, arguing that the program violated their Fourth Amendment rights, which protect them from unwarranted government searches.
“We have always sent letters to the city denying them access and it hasn’t been a problem until this year,” Dorice Pierce told Chicago’s ABC affiliate in 2019. “If you want to come in here, go get a search warrant because I am not just going to let you in because you say you want to come in.”
According to coverage of Zion’s city leadership from the Chicago Tribune in 2017, the inspection racket was part of a concerted effort by former Mayor Al Hill to drive renters out of town:
“Zion has 3.5 percent the population of Lake County,” Hill said as the council deliberated the in
Article from Reason.com